5 Tips for the Medical Student on Pediatric Orthopaedics

  1. Make friends with the resident(s) on service
The residents, especially the most junior ones, are the closest to you in the team hierarchy – they were once you! So be nice to them, listen to their advice, and do everything you can to make their jobs easier. In addition, if you are on an audition rotation or just trying to impress people, then the residents should be first on your list to impress. They usually have a lot of influence over our evaluation of you as well as the rank list.
  1. Make yourself available in the OR and in clinic
Everybody wants to be in the OR – we orthopaedic surgeons love to operate! But pediatric orthopaedics has more non-operative treatment than any other orthopaedic service. So if you’re always in the OR, you are missing out on a lot of what we do. Head to clinic, learn about casting, when to operate and (more importantly) when not to operate. We went into pediatric orthopaedics because taking care of kids is fun and they tend to do very well when treated. So you’ll get to see a lot of smiling and appreciation from kids and parents, which is what makes our jobs worthwhile.
  1. Prepare for cases
As orthopedic surgeons, we love anatomy. Even more than loving the anatomy itself, we love testing medical students on their anatomy knowledge. You should know your anatomy cold when you walk into that case. Take a look at Netter’s or Hoppenfeld. You don’t have to be able to do the surgery, but you should have a general idea of what we are fixing and the musculoskeletal anatomy involved.  You’ll also be much more tuned into what is going on during the case and less likely to get bored while you’re holding those retractors!
  1. Do the things you can do to assist the residents and attendings
We love it when a student shows initiative. So jump in and see a patient in clinic yourself, present the patient, and write a note. We don’t expect you to perform on the same level as a resident, and we are always impressed and appreciative when you take things off our plates. Help out with splinting and casting. Bring up X-rays. Take off dressings and take out sutures. We notice when you do the little things. We had a medical student that would always grab a few cups of ice water for the attending and residents between cases while we were dictating and writing orders. It may seem like a minor gesture, but that student ended up matching with us.
  1. Enjoy it!
Pediatric orthopaedics is, hands-down, the best job in the world. We love coming to work every day.  We love taking care of kids and we love teaching pediatric orthopaedics. You will get more out of each day if you relax and allow yourself to have fun.